Re-opening after COVID19 (May 24, 2020)

Good Sunday Morning! 

Around the world, some countries inch toward re-opening, while others shutter. Globally, more than five million people have been diagnosed with COVID19 and nearly 350,000 people have died.

We know we are lucky in Canada. We are particularly lucky in British Columbia. But nowhere in Canada are we out of the woods yet. We need to observe public health advice. We cannot let down our guard.

My Parliamentary colleague, the Green MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, Paul Manly has been one of the leading proponents for wearing masks for months now. His brother lives in Taiwan and Paul has been pointing out that Taiwan initially was in the world’s top ten of cases, and now has one of the lowest rates of infection. Thanks to Paul, Greens have been pushing the benefits of wearing non-medical masks for months. This week, the government agreed. (Here is Paul’s video on what he learned from Taiwan.)

Italy is beginning to open up, but with strict physical distancing. The streets are opening up to people and bicycles and sidewalk cafes – more than to cars. Spain, as well, is very cautiously re-opening. Wuhan is opening, but new cases in Beijing have prompted stricter measures there. The countries with the weakest health care systems are only now starting to see serious numbers of cases. East Africa is facing increased cases of COVID19 as well as floods and locusts. In Bangladesh,  authorities moved fast to protect people from Cyclone Amphan, but fear the inevitable crowding of evacuation may worsen the spread of COVID 19.

Still, the country in the world with the most cases is the richest – the country that should have a good health care system, but doesn’t. The country that should have respect for institutions and public science, but doesn’t. The country that can afford to take care of its most vulnerable, but doesn’t.

The United States has more cases than any other country in the world. – with almost 1.7 million of the world’s current cases. In contrast, China has had 82,000 cases in total.

I have not written about what we make of the US President. His contempt for climate science is nearly rivaled by his contempt for public health advice. In mid- April, he tweeted in support of those, mostly in states with Democratic Governors, protesting public health advice to stay home. Against shut-downs Trump tweeted “Liberate Michigan.” On April 23, he suggested researchers explore getting disinfectants or bright light inside of people. Democratic nominee Joe Biden tweeted, “I cannot believe I have to say this, but please don’t drink bleach.” Poisonings went up.

This week, Trump announced he has been taking the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic against COVID 19. His own government’s Food and Drug Administration warns against it.

Trump’s sons have claimed COVID19 is a Democratic plot to hurt their father’s re-election campaign. Eric Trump predicting it will completely disappear the day after the US election.

It is beyond dangerous that in a global pandemic and a global climate emergency the president of the United States seems to yearn to cap his career as one of the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse. Maybe he wants to be all four.

Yesterday, President Trump turned the pandemic into the cheapest of wedge issues for the upcoming campaign. He managed to press buttons of social conservatism while urging his followers to risk spreading the virus and increasing the tragic spread of the virus. He claimed that Democratic governors wanted abortion services and liquor stores to be essential service but not places of worship. He urged people to pack their places of worship this weekend, and if State governments tried to prevent it, the federal government would overrule them.

With what law? Thwarting how much of the U.S. Constitution? These are questions he does not answer.

It is hard to find words for someone so egotistical and reckless that he would risk the lives of his followers by urging them to congregate. And in risking their lives, even more jeopardize the fragile and overloaded health care system and its underpaid and overworked front line workers.

I know how hard it must be for our government to negotiate difficult issues with the US government. We have once again successfully negotiated keeping our border closed for all but essential services until the end of June. But the US President is a threat – to our economy, to our health and certainly to our climate.

I do not think there is anything to be gained in pressing Trudeau to call out President Trump as the dangerous and unhinged lunatic he is evident to be. We have to protect lives. But we must start protecting refugees from the United States. We must not turn back those desperate for security who come to our border.

Greens have been saying for years that the US is no longer a Safe Third Country. It isn’t safe at all.

In closing, I wanted to share this thoughtful editorial from The Guardian on comparisons between COVID19 and the climate crisis. Although it is primarily focused on UK politics, it has a message for us as well.

Stay well. Stay safe – do not go to church or synagogue but – if you are a prayerful person – pray for the United States.




P.S. My next Saanich-Gulf Islands Community Meeting by Zoom will be June 2. Watch for details!

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